(WFLA) – They don’t eat properly. They do poorly in school.
Victims aren’t drinking or using drugs.
These are people who are addicted to playing video games.
For the first time, there’s even a name for it. It’s called “Gaming Disorder.”
Clearwater insurance executive Nile Madley enjoys spending free time playing video games.
“They’re fun. They’re awesome and you’re not hurting anybody,” said Madley.
He’s been at it since he was a little kid. Working full time limits when he can play.
“I know a lot of people who play way too much, all day, every day, whenever they can,” said Madley.
Hannah Lahmeyer is also a life-long gamer. Her entire family enjoys playing.
“I guess you could say I have the symptoms of the addiction but I don’t have the full on addiction,” said Lahmeyer.
“I pretty much have been playing since I could hold a controller in my hand,” she said.
Lahmeyer and Madley are part of a generation where, at least for some, video games have replaced playing in the park, riding a bike, or going to the beach.
Dr. Kristopher Kaliebe is a child psychiatrist. He sees the disorder in his young patients all the time.
“Gaming is thing that has effected society with a lot of ripples in it. I think many of them are negative,” said Dr. Kaliebe.
Colleen Kajano’s five grandchildren would rather play video games than jump rope or play hide and seek.
“The minute I walk into the house, ‘nanna can I see your phone? Nanna can i see your iPad?’ And it’s not ‘hi nanna. We love you.’ Of course I know that they love me but that’s not the point,” said Kajano.
Gone are the days she remembers when her grand kids would actually interact with the family.
“From the minute they get home from school, they’re on the devices,” she said.
The hazards of gaming addiction include people who play all day and don’t even try to find a job.
“Who have dropped out of college, who have dropped out of school, who hardly leave their house, who don’t have friend networks,” said Dr. Kaliebe.
Serious video game addicts can seek treatment, but they must be motivated.
“Those who are in treatment and want to change can have a good success rate,” said Dr. Kaliebe.
Video game makers are clever at luring you in and making it hard to quit, like smoking or drinking.
“They’re designed to keep you coming back for small things over and over and over again. I think those are the ones that really rope you in to doing it, and then they purposely slow the game down,” said Madley.
It’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of players that know when to stop.
“Gaming can be a really great thing. You can do a lot of great things. But we need to use it as tool for such,” said gamer Devlin Kendall.
Then there are gaming addicts who let their life suffer for the gaming habit.
“There’s a good correlation with the more games, the worst grades,” said Dr. Kaliebe.
Parents who are worried their kids are addicted to video games should encourage their children to get outside, to exercise and limit game time.
Catching it when they’re young could prevent problems later.
Parents can recognize if their kids are addicted to gaming by looking for signs.
They include doing poorly at school, not getting enough sleep or not getting quality sleep and even dreaming about gaming.
Young people are most at risk.